Exit interviews provide a great opportunity to explore staff morale and motivation, but careful structuring is important to maximise their potential.
Interviewing departing staff can be a little awkward, but it provides critical insight. Exploring why someone is leaving often uncovers a treasure trove of valuable feedback. Employees have grown to expect exit interviews. Choose not to run an exit interview and you may even create bad favour with your soon to be ex-employee.
However, departure interviews are only constructive if they’re structured properly. That means choosing the right employee exit interview survey questions, maintaining a positive tone throughout, and ensuring that exit interview questions never become accusatory or critical.
In this article, we’ll go over what is an exit interview, when to hold it and how to structure it. But first, let’s consider why and how it can benefit both parties.
what is an exit interview?
From an employee’s perspective, filling in an exit interview form or conducting a departure interview provides a rare opportunity to be brutally honest.
Even if staff are leaving for positive reasons (to work nearer to home, or as a result of a career change), they could provide frank feedback on what the company did wrong, or how management could have handled certain situations better.
While completing exit interview forms or telling a manager to their face how poor they are gives staff a rare chance to speak without fear of consequences.
But the main benefits are reaped by companies. This is a unique insight into workplace dissatisfaction, drilling down into how frontline staff really feel about corporate policies and management techniques.
Even anonymous HR surveys or suggestion boxes won’t expose superior remuneration packages at rival firms, or establish how a toxic culture is affecting morale.
what should exit interview questions cover?
These are some of the topics deserving of discussion in an exit interview. They should be asked in a spirit of frank honesty, with no bias towards the employer.
1. Ask what led the employee to seek a new position. They might cite elements outside your control (such as a career change), but if they start talking about feeling undervalued or the job not living up to expectations, politely probe for more detail on where these feelings originated from.
2. Ask what persuaded them to accept their new role. Money is often a major factor, and if the candidate is valuable to the company, a counter-offer might be worth making subsequently. It may also be worth reviewing current staff salaries for the same role and increasing staff salaries to prevent future resignations.
3. Discuss your company’s culture. This is an open-ended question and different employees will have different perspectives on your culture. So pay attention to common themes/descriptions that you hear.
4. Ask what could have equipped them to do their job better. This often brings up a whole host of issues – unreliable IT, the drawbacks of hotdesking, etc. Lessons should be learned for the future, ensuring the employee’s replacement doesn’t encounter similar issues.
5. Investigate what they thought of the company’s management. A key reason for staff departures is perceived issues with line managers. Feedback in this area provides a chance to identify a toxic culture, or unearth issues with specific individuals.
setting the right exit interview template.
There’s no one-size-fits-all exit interview template that HR staff should follow when conducting discussions with departing staff. You know your organisation and what would be beneficial to understand.
Employee exit interview survey questions will vary by industry, department, company size and how long a particular staff member has worked there. Even so, these key tips are worth adhering to:
1. Conduct the interview somewhere neutral, like a quiet breakout area, meeting room on a floor away from their usual office space, or a nearby café.
2. Maintain a light tone. Starchy formality has no place here. Casual dress, body language and conversation will encourage greater honesty than an across-the-desk interrogation.
3. Start by thanking the employee for their contribution. This will disarm even the most battle-ready interviewee, setting a positive tone by showing appreciation for their work.
4. Take detailed notes. Avoid the temptation to record the conversation, as you won’t get the open responses that you are after. Handwritten notes are less intimidating. Gather as much feedback as you can from asking open questions which allows the employee to share their true thoughts and feelings.
5. Listen. Most importantly, don’t interrupt employees or claim to know better. Don’t argue with their points. This is their forum for them to share what hasn’t gone well, and you’re here to learn from them, rather than vice versa.
Before the interview ends, ask the employee whether they’d ever consider returning to your company. Watch their facial expression and body language for non-verbal clues, and encourage them to keep an eye on future vacancies.
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